What is molting?
Molting, or ecdysis, refers to the periodic shedding of a tarantula's exoskeleton. Tarantulas are invertebrates and have hard exoskeletons covering their bodies. In order to grow, they must grow a new exoskeleton under the old and then shed the older, smaller one.
How often do tarantulas molt?
Many adult tarantulas molt once every 1- 2 years. Young tarantulas (spiderlings) will molt more frequently, usually several times per year. Males will continue to molt until they are mature and will then typically not molt again. Females will continue to molt once they reach adulthood.
How do I know if my tarantula is about to molt?
There are several signs to look for to determine if your tarantula in in pre-molt and you may notice only one or a combination of these things:
1. Refuses food
2. Appears sluggish / lethargic
3. Difficulty climbing walls of container
4. The skin of the abdomen has turned dark (this is easiest to notice in NW tarantulas that have a bald spot on their abdomen)
How long does it take a tarantula to molt?
It can take anywhere from less than an hour to 12 hours or more for a tarantula to finish molting. It is important to not disturb your spider during this time and allow them to finish this process.
What does molting look like?
When a tarantula is ready to molt, it will typically spin a silken "molting mat" and then turn over onto its back. After a period of time, the carapace and abdomen will split open and the tarantula will begin to shed its old exoskeleton. You may notice occasional small movements as the spider flexes its legs. It will continue flexing, resting, and flexing again until all of the legs are free of the old exoskeleton. Once the exuvia (old exoskeleton) is tossed aside, the tarantula will remain on its back for awhile, resting and regaining its strength. You may notice it occasionally flexing its legs. After awhile, it will flip back over and begin several days of stretching out its new exoskeleton. See pictures below.
How long should I wait after molting before offering food?
Your tarantula will not be able to eat until its new fangs are completely hardened. For spiderlings, this often takes 4-6 days. For adults, this can take 1-3 weeks depending on the species and size of the spider. I began doing a "water test" that helps me know if a tarantula is ready to eat yet or not. I take a small syringe of water and dribble it carefully in front of the spider. If the spider ignores the water or turns away, it is likely not ready to eat. If it attacks the water, it is usually ready to eat.
Offer 1-2 prey items after waiting an appropriate amount of time and wait several hours. If the spider does not eat the food, remove it and try again in a few days. As long as the tarantula has access to water, it will be fine.